You Don’t Have to Sing, You Don’t Have to Dance

These Foolish Things, Manhã de Carnaval, Harold’s House of Jazz
copyright, Molly Larson Cook

It was an all-ages event. And I liked it that way. Following the notion of Robert Henri, Art and Spirit, that “Exhibitions should be small,” the art show reception on Friday was just that.

We didn’t plan it that way, but this is a small community, so the size of the crowd did not surprise any of us. And unlike some of the huge art shows I’ve attended with patrons blocking all the art and even spilling out into the street, this one was the right size for those in the crowd to enjoy both the company and the paintings.

The cast and crew – all of them – who provided moral support, music, food, flowers, and great company were highest quality, and I thank every soul who helped make this such a fine evening.

So where do I go from here? Back to the studio, of course. And I go with new questions and ideas. Some of the questions came from conversations with those at the show. It’s always great when people ask good questions that make the artist think before answering, because they are so often questions we have not asked ourselves.

I wonder: Did anyone ever ask Mozart why he chose those notes or that melody line?

“Why did you choose this color?” “Why don’t you frame the paintings?” “What does it mean to say ‘Color is an animal that wags its own tail?'” “Which comes first, the colors or the title?” “What will you do next?”

I think of the well-known Hemingway answer when the following conversation took place between him and an interviewer for Paris Review:

“INTERVIEWER: How much rewriting do you do?
HEMINGWAY: It depends. I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.
INTERVIEWER: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
HEMINGWAY: Getting the words right.”

Indeed. Getting the words right. Getting the notes right. Getting the colors right. Getting the steps right. Getting the pauses and the silent moments right.

One of the guests at the opening was an old friend, a classical pianist, who remarked on the amount of work that must have gone into the twenty paintings in the show. She compared it to playing difficult classical pieces and noted that it’s hard when you want to get it right. “It’s plain hard work.” Indeed, it is.

Another guest who knows about music pointed out to me that I had created “sound” with one particular painting. His explanation went beyond my knowledge of the structure of music, but I know enough to know that he was right, although his thought that I might have had that structure in mind as I painted was not correct.

“Then,” he said, “for you it’s intuitive.”

Much of art, particularly abstract art, is just that – intuitive. And it’s with a grateful heart that I accept the gift of that intuition. When it feels right, it’s probably right.

Two young patrons discuss art and cookies!

All I know is that sometimes I go to the studio with a particular idea in mind as if I were a landscape artist and have decided to paint a red barn, blue sky and green fields. With a black and white cow in the corner. But when I lay the first colors on the canvas, I can feel (and that’s the operative word), feel that something about my idea is not right.

So, I’m going to leap way outside the art world now for help in articulating this. I’m going to go to the stars, as it were, with this from Isaac Asimov:

“Intuition is the art, peculiar to the human mind, of working out the correct answer from data that is, in itself, incomplete or even, perhaps, misleading.”

Looking at a blank sheet of paper or a blank canvas or an empty dance studio can be daunting. No, let me say it more clearly. The blank sheet of paper, the blank canvas, the empty dance studio are, without question, daunting.

And that is why we do our art.

We cannot just stare into the vast infinity, helpless and without our voices. Daunting, but necessary. The answer for me is found in the lyrics of the wonderful Maltby and Shire musical, Starting Here, Starting Now.

“You don’t have to sing, you don’t have to dance/
but nothin’ will happen ’til you take a chance.”

One step. One tentative one step.

10 thoughts on “You Don’t Have to Sing, You Don’t Have to Dance

  1. The pleasure was mutual…we are happy to know you and Rick are here…when the weather finally cools a bit, we’ll get out to see you…
    Love, Molly

  2. Thank you, baby. And thank you for the love and support you give me every day…

  3. Quality not quantity is the way to go! And having the darling kids there made it even better.
    Love to you, Janice my dear!

  4. Sounds like a success to me. It’s quality, not quantity that makes something worthwhile. Loved reading this.

  5. Don…your message made my day! It means a lot to hear this from someone who has done the same…hope to see you one of these days while we can sing and dance!

  6. It was wonderful to have you and Jerry there! Thank you for this lovely message. Next – train poetry! Thelma…

  7. Molly, it was nice to see your art hung in a public space (that is, not a restaurant like New Morning) where the art was the purpose for being there. I thought it was a healthy crowd, the food all looked beautiful, and the music was a nice bonus touch! Congratulations on your first artistic venture in Sweet Home! I’m envious of the folks who’ll get to take your classes in the Fall.

  8. Well Molly, I’m sure that you will get your art right, but it’s obvious to me based on your recent adventures and accomplishments, you have gotten your life right. Congratulations. First things first!!

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